From Access to Absorption: Reading the Bible Big

In Ministry by Aldrin Bogi

Over the years, Bible agencies around the world have placed emphasis on Bible Translation [BT] to help people access the Bible, God’s Word. This effort needs to continue as there are millions of people without the Bible. Recent studies, however, reveal that more and more people are reading less and less of the Bible. A survey in North America has found that 1,700 people have stopped reading the Bible daily. Another survey by an IFOBA in Bangalore revealed that 80 percent of Christian youth flip through their Bibles only in times of crisis. This is a major problem the church is facing worldwide.

While Bible access is important, it is equally important that we do everything we can to make the process of Bible absorption possible for deeper engagement with the Scriptures. However, there are real challenges with regard to Bible Access and Bible Absorption.

Challenges Pertaining to Bible Access:

Bible Access can be defined as excellent translations of full Bibles made available for every tribe in every nation presented in print, audio, and digital formats. This is no easy job. Among the many challenges in this regard are:

  • More than 1.5 billion people around the world don’t have a Bible in their language.
  • Bibles are available in print form but people prefer oral communication or don’t have the opportunity to read.
  • People want Bibles, but are not able to get them.
  • Displaced populations do not have Bibles available in their languages.
  • People, especially minority language groups, are unaware that Bibles are available for them.
  • The Old Testament [OT] is yet to be translated in over 5,400 languages. Research shows that the OT is critical to a full understanding of the gospel and God’s plan of redemption especially for the unreached groups. There are verifiable reports of OT stories drawing people groups to the Lord. A friend told me about how the OT story of Jonah impacted a people group in Columbia. As the missionary described how citizens of Nineveh responded to the prophet’s warnings, some members were stirred up by the narrative: “We too have done terrible things… like following cruel customs of burying unwanted babies alive… and we too must change and stop offending the God of the Bible!”. Some more members of the group were saved a few days later.

Our goal is to place the OT in the hands of millions. We need more expert OT translators for this as we are short of OT translations consultants. It is difficult to make disciples without enough OT Scriptures.

These are some of the challenges for us to wrestle with in the area of Bible Access. But even as we continue to strive towards ensuring that every tribe in every nation gets the Bible in their heart language, we also need to make sure we tackle issues of Bible absorption. What is the use if people can access God’s word but do not use it?

Challenges Pertaining to Bible Absorption:

What do we mean by this? Absorption happens when we can strategically leverage our published translations (whether in print, audio, or digital formats) via programs, resources, and education that help people read and live the Bible well. True transformation happens when we can bring both Bible access and Bible absorption in a meaningful rhythm. Let’s consider a few aspects:

  • There are people who might prefer listening to the Bible than reading. Or vice versa.
  • We have to help people who think the Bible is not relevant to their lives.
  • Develop a strategy to help people who risk persecution if they associate with the Bible.
  • Help people read and study the Bible better. Many don’t know the basic information behind a book and often misinterpret Scriptures. Worse still, they misapply the Bible.
  • People are unaware of the overarching narrative of the Bible from creation to the cross and beyond. This is one reason many find it hard to find their personal narratives and therefore live with a purpose.

Many in the church today have picked up bad reading habits when it comes to the Bible. As Philip Yancey rightly says, “We’ve essentially reduced our engagement with the Scripture to eating Bible McNuggets.” Bible absorption is more than just snacking on God’s Word; rather it is helping people get on to a more wholesome diet.

Bible agencies need to work hard to make sure both Bible Access (Translation and Publishing) and Bible Absorption (Bible Engagement and distribution) go hand in hand. Habakkuk 2:14 says, “For the Earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (NIV).

Biblica’s Community Bible Experience [CBE] is a classic example of how Bible Access + Bible Absorption go hand in hand—a program geared to help people Read the Bible Well and Live Well. Here our Translations team worked to get us a Bible Translation that is Accurate, Readable, and Reliable. The Engagement team took it one step forward by working on decluttering the Bible from many well-intended accessories (chapter and verse numbers, cross-references, red-letters, etc.) and they rearranged the flow of the text in a better historical flow. All this is to help the readers engage with Scriptures at a deeper level. At Biblica, we call this ‘The Books of the Bible’—a Bible so innovative that it was there from the start!

This Model Encourages People to Read the Bible Well by Challenging Them to Read Big:

Many have gotten used to unhealthy reading habits like picking small portions or just snacking on daily devotionals. They lack the habit of reading big. If we can read other narratives big, why shouldn’t we read the Bible big? It is important that we help people to read big. One major benefit is that it will help people not read the Bible out of context. This is a very important first step to reading the Bible well.

Read Real:

Ranging from preaching trends to “verse of the day” emails, the Bible can start to feel more like a reference book and less like a story. With columns and verses, it can feel even less conducive to comfortable reading and absorption. We’ve designed a Bible that restores the text to a more authentic presentation (we removed chapter and verse numbers, columns, etc.), helping you see Scripture in its original context and uncover its original beauty.

Read Together:

The Bible narratives were birthed out of a storytelling community and for various reasons, the Early Church experienced Scripture as a community. If the Bible means a lot to you, what better way to experience it than with the ones who mean the most to you! The CBE welcomes everyone into an honest, open conversation about the Bible.

We need to ask God to help us come up with ways to help people rediscover the grand story of God so that they can live out their role in God’s story. Imagine the impact when everyone in the Body of Christ reads the Bible like this.

It will eradicate Bible poverty!

Aldrin Bogi

Area Executive Director, South Asia at Biblica
Aldrin has pursued field-specific missional courses with the University of the Nations in Asia, Africa & Europe and also holds a M.Th in Applied Theology from the University of Wales. He spent four years with Youth For Christ and another 23 years with Youth With a Mission before coming to Biblica. His current role involves setting the vision and giving strategic direction to Biblica’s work across South Asia.

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